Iglesia Evangélica Menonita del Perú
La Iglesia Evangélica Menonita del Perú tiene 1500 miembros y 20 congregaciones (2010). 
La Iglesia Nacional Menonita del Cusco
La Igelsia Nacional de Cusco, Perú, está conformada de 5 congregaciones establecidad en la ciudad de Cusco y en la áreas que la rodean al sur de Perú. También hay tres nuevas congregacioes formándose en Saylla, Paruro y en Valle de Lares. La conferencia tiene un comité central que representa a todas las congregaciones y obras nuevas. La conferencia es predominantemente Quechua.
The National church of Cusco, Peru, is made up of five established congregations in the city of Cusco and the surrounding area of southern Peru. There are also three new fellowships being formed, in Saylla, Paruro and Valle de Lares. The conference has a central committee which represents all the congregations and fellowships. It is a predominantly Quechua conference.
In the 1980’s the US-American Mennonite missions agency, Eastern Board (now Eastern Mennonite Missions), formulated a fresh vision for international missions. This vision resulted in sending Howard and Louise Yoder to Peru in 1987 as the first Mennonite missionaries in the Cuzco region. They were sent by the Eastern Board missions organization (now renamed Eastern Mennonite Missions) to begin a witness among the indigenous Quechua people. Upon arrival in Cuzco the Yoders met Rueben Carrasco, an active member of the evangelical church Iglesia Evangelica Peruana. Rueben became the missionaries’ connection to the villagers in Lucre, where the Mennonite witness began to take hold. A group of villagers that had been listening to a Quechua Christian radio program broadcast from Cuzco for several months were especially receptive of the Mennonite message. Many of them joined the Bible studies initiated by the Yoders and continued by subsequent EMM missionaries. In 1990, the group of Mennonite believers held a church dedication in Lucre, marking the first Mennonite congregation in Peru with baptisms and traditional Quechua music.
Though initially feared and disliked by the villagers of Lucre, the congregation’s Anabaptist commitment to serving and helping others soon won many of the villager’s affections. The day of the church dedication, the villagers threatened to throw rocks and trash at the gathered congregation. The villagers believed it was the Mennonite’s fault that the rains had not come that year. However, when they witnessed the level of trust between those in the church and their willingness to help others, many found themselves drawn to their Anabaptist message. In addition to their commitment to serving others, the church in Lucre distinguished itself as Mennonite through its commitment to adult baptism, following the teachings of Jesus, practicing discipleship, and teaching the truth of the Word of God.
1987- Yoders as first Mennonite missionaries to Peru Howard and Louise Yoder travel to Peru as the first Mennonite missionaries through Eastern Mennonite Missions. They meet Reuben Carrasco, a member of the evangelical congregation Iglesia Evangelica Peruana , who assists the Yoders in their early missionary work. They stay in Peru until 1990, and are followed by fellow missionaries Steve and Beth Gibbs and Joe and Jeannie Lockinger.
Oct 14, 1990-Dedication service of church in Lucre A group of Christians in Lucre had been meeting for several months, listening and discussing a Quechua Christian radio program broadcasted from Cuzco. This group of Peruvian believers came in contact with EMM missionaries through Reuben Carrasco. As the meetings continue to grow the Peruvian believers and EMM missionaries planned to dedicate the first Mennonite church in Lucre. However, some townspeople blamed the presence of the believers for the village’s lack of rain and threatened to throw rocks and trash during the dedication. The dedication service was moved to a different location to successfully avert the conflict.
July/Aug 1990- New fellowship in San Jeronimo EMM workers, Steve and Beth Gibbs, moved to San Jeronimo in 1990 to begin a witness. They began teaching and holding Bible studies. A new fellowship of over 20 members formed out of a Bible study began by Beth and here house helper, Valeria.
December1995-Liscencing of first national pastors in Lucre and Huarcarpay The Mennonite church continues to grow in Cuzco. Peruvian leaders continue to develop and take more responsibility for the movement. Peruvians, Justo Berrios and Rueben Carrasco, were licensed as leaders in Lucre and Huacarpay, respectively.
December 1995- Quechua JESUS film premiered The Mennonite church in Lucre joined with other evangelical churches and Campus Crusade to translate the JESUS film into Quechua. Upon completion of the 18 month translation process, the Mennonite church showed the film to two completely full audiences. The church had 700 seats, but each night more than 1000 people showed up to watch. Many were touched upon seeing the story of Jesus depicted in their own language.
Jan 2001- Celestino begins church in Santa Teresa Celestino was converted to Christianity in the Mennonite church in 1996 during a Mennonite church service. He now donated some of his land in Paltaychayoc, a village 19 hours from Cuzco, for the construction of a Mennonite church. Celestino now leads the fellowship formed there, receiving visits from the Mennonite churches in Cuzco for showings of the JESUS film, medical treatment, and the celebration of weddings and baptisms.
2003- Authority officially handed over national church leaders The church continues to grow rapidly, four congregations have grown to ten. The authority of the Mennonite churches in Cuzco is officially transferred to national church leaders. EMM now takes on a supporting role rather than a leading role.
2005- PROMESA school began The church in San Jeronimo launched their vision of a bilingual Mennonite school, dubbed PROMESA. Beginning with elementary school, the church hopes to offer a new grade each year so that eventually they will have a PROMESA high school and then a university.
Jan 2010-Flooding in Cuzco Major floods inundated Cuzco, destroying the livelihoods of many. In Lucre and Huacarpay, 80-90% of all villagers lost their crops, houses, and possessions. The church has been active in initial relief and rebuilding efforts in these areas, but there is still a large need for aid since many continue to live in poorly constructed refugee tent villages.
The Mennonite groups in Peru identify strongly with the early Anabaptist idea of living in the world yet also living separately from the world. The majority of non-Mennonite Peruvians ascribe to a synchronistic belief in Catholicism and pagan religions in which they pray to the saints and also make offerings to the spirits of the mountains. As a relatively young movement, most Peruvian Mennonites were once a part of this religious syncretism. Therefore making a decision to join the Mennonite churches marks a distinct turning away from old beliefs and customs. They do not celebrate the pagan festivals or participate in pagan practices like they once did. They hold on to their traditional style of music but have adopted Christian lyrics. In addition to living separately from the world, the Mennonites in Cuzco practice adult baptism. These are true “re-baptisms” because the majority of people have already been baptized in the Catholic church as babies. They also practice serving others and stress the importance of following Jesus’ teachings.
While many members of the Cuzco Mennonite churches may not know very much about early Anabaptist history, church leaders continue to learn and teach the Anabaptist story. From 2001 to 2006 the church set up a Bible institute in which Anabaptist theology was part of the curriculum. As the leaders studied at the Bible institute, they shared their new understandings with Mennonites from all over the Cuzco region. In 2005 the church in San Jeronimo hosted a month long leadership training school. Fifty people attended a six-week training session in 2006, which ended in a nine day outreach program in areas surrounding Cuzco.
The congregation continues to learn and benefit from interactions with Anabaptist groups around the world. Peruvian pastors have attended the Mennonite World Conference during the past ten years, most recently in Paraguay. The Peruvian Mennonites have engaged in a particularly special relationship with the Mennonite church in Guatemala. Church leaders in Guatemala recognized the similarities between their church settled within the indigenous K’ekchi’ population and the Cuzco churches located in traditional Quechua areas. Believing they could learn from each other’s challenges and successes, the Guatemala church leaders invited Peruvian church leaders over for a visit. This visit occurred in 2007, as Peruvian pastors Reuben Carrasco and David traveled to Guatemala for a week of sharing and fellowship. Since then, members from the Guatemala church have reciprocally visited Peru.
As the rapidly growing church transitions from a congregation led by missionaries to a church led by native Peruvians, the largest challenge is leadership training. In twenty years the Mennonite church has grown from nothing to ten congregations in Cuzco and eighty more isolated communities located in the mountains. In 2003, the church had to temporarily stop showing the JESUS film to communities because it attracted so many converts that the church could not disciple them all. With so many new converts, the church has created youth discipleship programs and held two 4-6 week leadership training sessions. However, the church still asks for volunteers that can effectively train leaders within the church.
The church also struggles financially, especially in the current economic situation. The church has big dreams for building a university and a hospital but do not have the resources to do so. The flood disaster of 2010 compounds the economic problems since many members of the church lost their homes, crops, and livelihoods to the waters. The church continues to ask the larger Mennonite community for donations and prayer.
Additional challenges include the many ways in which new believers struggle to separate themselves from their old lives. Alcoholism is a major issue in the Cuzco area and is often a hard habit to break, even after conversion. The church has worked at this challenge by offering addiction recovery classes and through PROMESA providing a loving and safe space for the children of alcoholics to attend school. New believers also often struggle with a lack of trust for those within the church. Lack of trust runs deep in Peruvian culture at least partly due to the terrorism of the Shining Path and resulting governmental crackdown of the 1990s. Continued discipleship remains important in overcoming these challenges for new believers.
Vision of the Future
While the church needs continued leadership training to adequately disciple its growing numbers, the leadership in place remains strong and visionary. Each year the church aims to add adds one more grade on to the PROMESA school. The church holds the long term vision of beginning a Mennonite University. This vision also includes expanding current medical initiatves into a Mennonite hospital. While there remain many challenges to these ideas, the church continues to grow through continual outreach with the JESUS film and the PROMESA school. The church is raising a new generation of children influenced by the Mennonite gospel through its school. As these children continue to grow and develop, the church will also continue to grow and develop.
The church will continue to engage the worldwide Mennonite community in the future. Continued contact with the K’ekchi’ Mennonite Church in Guatemala will foster international solidarity as they swap ideas and build relationships. The envisioned Mennonite University will draw students to Peru from a variety of Latin American Mennonite communities. Spreading the gospel remains a high priority for many Peruvian Mennonites. As the Word reaches many of the remaining mountains of Cuzco, the church could focus on other areas of Peru and even other countries.
“A church grows in San Jeronimo” Missionary Messenger. July/Aug (1991): 20.
Describes the new fellowship growing in San Jeronimo, Peru. Beth Gibbs and here house helper, Valeria, began a gathering of neighbors. Now twenty believers meet each Sunday.
“Christ makes a difference for Quechua farmers.” Missionary Messenger. September (1991): 20.
Describes how villagers in Lucre have observed the new level of trust between the 70 members of the Mennonite church. The villagers are asking how they can become part of the congregation. Briefly describes how the congregation in Huacarpay forms.
“Congergation in Peru Constructs Church Building.” Missionary Messenger, October (1993): 12.
This is a brief report on the construction of the church building in Lucre. It descrbes how church holds work days on holidays and meanwhile takes turns sleeping on the property to guard the materials.
EMM News Service. “Explosive church growth in Peru.” Missionary Messenger, February (2010):10-11.
Describes important events in the Peruvian Mennonite church of the since 1990. It includes an account of the church’s campaign to eradicate rabies in 2000, the large growth of Mennonite churches in distant mountain villages due to the showing of the JESUS film as well as plans to build a Spanish-English bilingual Christian school in 2003, and the 2007 annual assembly of the Peruvian Mennonite Church.
Knudsen, Stephanie , Steve Shank and Stephen Weaver. “An overwhelming response” Missionary Messenger. August (2003): 8-9.
The Mennonite church in Guatemala recognized similarities between their witness and that of the Peruvian Mennonite church. The K’ekchi’Mennonite Church invited Peruvian Mennonite leaders to visit. The JESUS film was temporarily not shown because too many people were becoming attracted to the church and there were not enough leaders to properly disciple and teach the new believers.
Mennonite Weekly Review. “First Peruvian church marks 18th anniversary.” Last edited 2010. http://www.mennoweekly.org/2009/1/5/first-peruvian-church-marks-18th-anniversary/
Notes that Mennonite Church in Cuzco now has 1,500 members in 20 different congregations.
Miller, Doris. “A Church is Planted in Lucre.” Missionary Messenger, February (1991): 12.
This article gives an account of the first church Mennonite church planted in Lucre. It describes who was involved, the events of the first worship service, and the community’s violent response.
Moffet, Linda, and Jewel Showalter. “When hope is drowning.” Missionary Messenger, July (2010): 4-7.
Reports on the flooding that began January 25, 2010, destroying many homes and livelihoods in Cuzco. EMM gave $13,000 of relief money and asks for more donations.
Regina Shultz. Email message to author. April 3, 2010.
As a recent missionary in Peru, Shultz explains some of the current challenges and visions of the Mennonite church in Peru. She cites leadership training, financial issues, alcoholism, and general distrust as issues on which the church is currently working.
Shultz, Ron. “The promise of education.” Missionary Messenger. February (2007): 10-11.
The bilingual school, PROMESA, began in 2005 teaches Mennonite and non-Mennonite students. Many students have parents that have addictions to alchoal. The school thus becomes a safe place where these students can find love and encouragement.
Showalter, Jewel. “Peruvian Mennonites hold intensive leadership training school.” Missionary Messenger. July (2006): 2.
An account of the second leadership training held in 2006. This training lasted for six weeks and attracted fifty participants. The training ended with a nine-day long outreach to neighboring villages. The newly trained leaders created and led church services.
Showatler, Jewel and Linda Moffet. “Two cultures, one Father.” Missionary Messenger. EMM Annual Report (2007): 10.
Briefly reports on the trip Peruvian church leaders, Pastor Reuben and Pastor David, took to the K’ekchi’Mennonite Church in Guatemala. The visit went well resulting in one pastor saying he had “never experienced sharing that touched him so deeply.”
Weaver, Dawn. “With a sleeping bag and a willing heart.” Missionary Messenger. July (2005): 10-11.
Describes the first leadership training held at the San Jeronimo church. For one month the participants learned and prayed on a strict schedule. This leadership training was an effort to create stronger leaders within the ever growing church.
Yoder, Jeff. “The Peruvian Mennonite Movement.” Goshen College, 2010.
Based on a series of interviews, Yoder reflects on how the Mennonite church became established in Peru and how they identify themselves with the Anabaptist tradition.
- Mennonite Weekly Review, “First Peruvian church marks 18th anniversary.” Last edited 2010. http://www.mennoweekly.org/2009/1/5/first-peruvian-church-marks-18th-anniversary/
- Global Gift Sharing Report (MWC, 2005), 114.
- Jeff Yoder, “The Peruvian Mennonite Movement” (Goshen College, 2010).
- “Christ makes a difference for Quechua farmers,” Missionary Messenger, September (1991): 20.
- Doris Miller, “A Church is Planted in Lucre, ”Missionary Messenger, February (1991): 12.
- Regina Shultz, e-mail message to author, April 3, 2010.
- Dawn Weaver, “With a sleeping bag and a willing heart,” Missionary Messenger, July (2005): 10-11.
- Jewel,Showalter, “Peruvian Mennonites hold intensive leadership training school,” Missionary Messenger, July (2006): 2.
- Regina Shultz.
- Stephanie Knudsen, Steve Shank and Stephen Weaver, “An overwhelming response” Missionary Messenger, August (2003): 8-9.
- Jewel Showatler and Linda Moffet, “Two cultures, one Father,” Missionary Messenger, EMM Annual Report(2007): 10.
- Stephanie Knudsen, 2003.
- Regina Shultz.
- Linda Moffet and Jewel Showalter, “When hope is drowning,” Missionary Messenger, July (2010): 4-7.
- Regina Shultz.
- Ron Shultz, “The promise of education,” Missionary Messenger, February (2007): 10-11.
- Regina Shultz.